A major theme in Act III and IV is blindness, which is demonstrated t figuratively and through physical actions. The characters go through a progression of blindness and clarity. Not all the characters end up seeing clearly, and they often have clarity about one event and not another. King Lear, Gloucester, and Albany go through the most distinctive transformations. Each is blind in multiple ways but is driven by love. Gloucester is motivated by the love he has for Edmund and believes that his other son Edgar is making a plan to kill him. Then, Albany is blinded by the love he has for Goneril though he is suspicious about her intentions. On the other hand, King Lear situation is more complex then Gloucester's and Albany's. King Lear is blind to the love Cordelia has for him and gives his love to her sisters: Regan and Goneril, who do not love the King. King Lear instead banishes Cordelia and gives her dowries to her sisters. This essay discusses the blindness and clarity of these characters throughout the novel and the revelations they discover about their loved ones.
At the beginning of at Act III, King Lear has been driven mad by the betrayal of his two daughters: Regan and Goneril. Cordelia is not blinded by her sisters deviousness created to manipulate their father. Cordelia can see what her sisters are doing to their father and has raised an army to try to rescue him.
A messenger delivers a message saying, "The British powers are marching hitherward." (4.5.24)
As a result, Cordelia responds "Our preparation stands,
In expectation of them.---O dear father,
It is thy business that I go about." (4.3.25-27)
Despite Cordelia bring in an army in defense of King Lear, King Lear is still blind to Cordelia's love towards him.
King Lear is speaking, "If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me, for your sisters,
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong.
You have some cause; they have not." (4.7.82-85)
Gloucester is blind to the betrayal of his son Edmund. Edmund is the illegitimate son who does not inherit anything, which is why Edmund schemes to banish his brother Edgar who is legitimate. Gloucester does not think twice about exiling Edgar because he trusts that Edmund was protecting his safety. Though, in reality Edmund was manipulating his father to his advantage. Edmund states,
"This courtesy forbid thee shall the Duke
Instantly know, and of that letter too.
This seems a fair deserving, and must draw me
That which my father loses---no less than all.
The younger rises when the old doth fall." (3.3.21-25)
Edmund does not truly love Gloucester; he is just using him for his power. Gloucester is blind to the fact that Edmund has betrayed his trust and is selling forcing Edgar out.
Gloucester has his physical sight when he see the banished Edgar, but he is once again blind to his son who is disguised as "Poor Tom" when he is reunited with him during the storm scene. Edgar has transformed into the role of "Poor Tom" and Gloucester does not recognize him. When Gloucester meet Edgar in the storm, he is confused who he is and asks,
"What are you there? Your names?" (3.4.135)
This shows that Gloucester's blindness to Edgar has not changed from the beginning of the novel to this current scene, and it continues. Once blinded Gloucester begins to realize that he was wrong about both Edmund and Edgar. He still does not recognize Edgar, who chooses to help Gloucester get to Dover.
On the other hand, Gloucester and Kent have clarity about King Lear's situation when he is out in the storm. When it comes to other people's blindness, it often can be identified because it does not focus on your feelings and is less personal. Gloucester and Kent can tell that the King is going mad because of the trauma he has endured from his daughters. They are afraid that the King is losing his sanity and is not going to be able to recover. Kent and Gloucester are talking to each other, Kent first says,
"Importune him once more to go, my lord.
His wits begin t' unsettle." (3.4.169-170) Then Gloucester replies,
"Canst thou blame him?
His daughters seek his death. Ah, that good Kent!.... (3.4.171-172)
Thou sayest the King grows mad; I'll tell, thee
I am almost mad myself." (3.4.174-176)
Gloucester can sympathize with King Lear because he has experienced a similar situation with his sons. He can understand why he is going mad and his reasoning behind it.
All of these characters have weaknesses when it comes to love, Love can make people blind to reality and can have consequences in the long run. Both King Lear and Gloucester didn't get to appreciate Edgar's and Cordelia's love for them and in the end they missed the opportunity before they died. Pushing away loved ones is not always the answer to problems. In the end, always appreciate what you have before it's too late.